The current governing legislation regarding the use of display screen equipment (DSE) for work purposes is the Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992 as amended in 2002. DSE is equipment and devices with an alphanumeric or graphic display screen. This includes PCs, smartphones, tablets and laptops, all of which are commonplace in a work environment. The Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992 were revisited in 2002 to take into account the changes in technology since the regulations were published. The changes in 2002 also reflected a better understanding of the health risks that regular DSE use poses along with how these risks can be controlled. Such health risks include musculoskeletal problems, headaches, tired eyes and mental stress.
What was the Preceding Legislation?
Prior to the 2002 amendments, the existing legislation was the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992. The regulations apply to all DSE users (i.e. workers who use DSE daily for at least an hour continuously). The regulations can be divided into 4 broad categories:
- Workstation assessments
- Managing workloads
- Eye care
- Training and information
What changes were introduced in 2002?
A number of minor changes were made to the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 through the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002. Changes were made in the following areas:
- Health risks of DSE use and how to successfully mitigate them
- Portable DSE
- Working with a mouse or pointing device
- Application of the legislation to special groups, like home workers and agency workers
- Workstation requirements
- Corrective glasses
- Software, including break monitoring software
Between 1992 and 2002, the use of laptops increased substantially. In addition to the gradual evolution of smartphones and their monumental increase in prevalence, the 1992 section on portables was becoming quickly outdated. The 2002 amendment sought to bring regulations up to the forefront of our digital age. Consequently the regulations were updated to include explicit confirmation that laptops too were covered by these restrictions, when used for prolonged periods of time and that smartphones were also classed as portable DSE.
Why is Display Screen Equipment Regulation Important?
The Display Screen Equipment Regulations are crucially important because they protect the health and safety of your workers. Protecting the health of your workers means that your workers will in turn be happier, produce a better quality of work and take fewer sick days. Therefore, the benefits span across employees and employers alike. Furthermore, regulation breaches could result in you being issued an Improvement Notice, followed by a number of progressively more serious penalties. It is important to note that the regulations merely outline a minimum accepted health and safety standard and there is much that could be done to exceed them and create good practice within your organisation.